When savvy travelers want to hail a taxi or limo in many metropolitan areas, they grab an app like TaxiMagic (free) or Uber (free), tap a few buttons to “e-hail” a nearby driver, and they’re on their way. New York City, however, has several decades-old idiosyncratic rules about which specific types of cars are able to respond to street hails (yellow taxis) and which are summoned by pre-arrangement or reservation (limos, livery and car service).
The notion of apps helping with e-hailing doesn’t sit well with everyone. Car service and livery operators are not happy with the idea of apps being used to summon yellow cabs, and they have written to the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) to call for the use of the apps to be rejected.
Today, the commission will vote on allowing a one-year pilot program where the apps will be evaluated in a “measured way.” In some cities like San Francisco, the apps are widely used and very popular with smartphone-toting passengers. Australia‘s taxi authority has warned about rogue apps that funnel passengers to drivers without taxi licenses. In London, valid apps that require drivers to provide taxi license info before being allowed to use the services are very popular — both with consumers and with drivers.
The chairman of the TLC, David Yassky, told the Wall Street Journal that “[taxi]-hailing apps will be useful to customers,” but noted that “[there’s] a lot we don’t know about how they will work in practice and what impact there will be on other parts of industry.” At least one cabbie is on the pro-app side of the argument; author and taxi driver Melissa Plaut’s op-ed in the New York Times lays out the economic case for having taxis (which often sit underutilized for much of their shifts) expand their view of would-be riders using mobile technology.